Recent Fatal Navy, Marine Aviation Crashes Are Symptoms of Overworked Forces, Officials Say

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) prepares to takeoff while transiting the Bab al-Mandeb Strait aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), April 1, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Investigations into a recent string of fatal aviation mishaps across the joint force are ongoing, but Navy and Marine Corps leaders said the spate of events clearly points to an overworked force, two officers told USNI News this morning.

Speaking on a panel at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 symposium, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn Walters said the joint force is still conducting official reviews of all the recent incidents: a March 14 crash of a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet near Naval Air Station Key West that killed both aircrew; a March 15 crash of an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in Western Iraq that killed seven airmen onboard; an April 3 crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter in California that killed all four Marines onboard; an April 3 crash of an Air Force F-16 that killed the pilot; and an April 6 crash of an Army AH-64E Apache near Fort Campbell that killed two soldiers. But he added that, at the service level, leaders are already talking about their concerns that so many aviators are dying not at the hands of the enemy but from mishaps during training and routine missions.

“Do we talk about it? We talk about it every day. Obviously you don’t want to react too quickly, until you have some root causes,” he told USNI News when asked how the Marine Corps was responding to the fatal and nonfatal crashes in recent weeks.
“Each mishap is a little bit different, each has a different cause, and if you look at how we train and how we communicate with our aviators, the lessons learned, the very painful lessons learned from all these mishaps, make us change. And sometimes it’s going back to the basics, which I think we will and we have. Aviation, much like our ships, has been stressed over the last 15, 16 years, as we utilize them two or three times what our planned utilization was going to be. A lot of it is getting new iron out there. A lot of it is providing time, providing time for our commanders and our pilots to practice the art of professional aviation. And that is where we can help. We’ve actually said no to a few things where they wanted ‘X’ number of aircraft to go to a place in the world and we said no, we need building time, and we managed that at the [air] wing and the [Marine Expeditionary Force] level.”

Vice Adm. Bill Merz, the Navy’s deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, said during the panel that not just naval aviation but also the surface force, the submarine force and other units around […]


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